Our children aren’t getting proper food at nurseries – campaign

Would you believe 1 in 5 children start school already overweight? (1 in 10 are obese) Apparently too many parents rarely cook, toddlers are eating fast food and nurseries are not dishing up the correct nutritious meals.

Our children are among the fattest in Europe. Studies show that children who start school obese are unlikely to lose the excess

Too much sugar and salt in young children's diets
Too much sugar and salt in young children's diets

weight – and there are no regulations on what nurseries should feed our children (other than in Scotland).

In the daily rush to school and work it’s tempting to cut corners with pre-packed high fat, high sugar foods. But we need to be cautious of the growing market of ready meals and foods aimed at children. Under 5s generally eat twice as much sugaras they need and 40% have decay in their baby teeth.

This week the BBC’s Panorama programme investigated this issue and The Soil Association and Organix has begun a campaign to improve the standard of food nurseries feed to pre-school children. The two food groups have begun a petition calling for training and standards to be raised in order to support children’s nurseries. It’s not that all nurseries are bad, but without detailed guidelines it’s easy for child-carers to confuse the advice given to adults with what a child needs.Do you know how much zinc or oily fish under 5s should have for example?

As parents we have to get past the myth that children only like sweet snacks. Instead, planning meals and snacktimes which are nutritious and can be quickly prepared each day may be far more beneficial to our children’s health than we currently realise. The website Netmums offers useful info on meal planning and toddler’s recipes; and you can download nutrition guides forcarers from the NHS and The Caroline Walker Trust. There are also a variety of books which give information on nutrition through cooking aimed at children.

In the real world we know that we still need the convenience of a meal you can just grab from the cupboard occasionally, for those times I really value Ella’s Kitchen foods which are specifically designed for toddlers. Ella’s Dad made the food himself because he was concerned about rising obesity levels and children’s diet and he makes sure all the food is natural with nothing added.

Which? calls for tightening up of food labelling

The consumers association Which? has called for a tightening up of rules on labelling some food products.

Currently the country of origin must be provided on beef and poultry if imported from outside the EU, but not on pork and pork products, or lamb, a situation that Which? calls “bizarre. In addition the manufacturer using imported meats can claim as the country of origin the place where the product last underwent a substantial change, rather than where the meat for it came from.

In a recent survey carried out by Which? 3 in 4 people want proper origin labelling for all meat and poultry, all processed foods made from them as well as dairy products, fish and fruit and vegetables. I am definitely included in that 3 out of 4!

Please note that GoodnessDirect.co.uk only sell UK produced prime cuts of organic meat.

Vit D can cut the risk of getting bowel cancer

Vitamin D can cut the risk of getting bowel cancer by 40%, but in winter in UK getting enough vitamin D from the sun can be almost impossible. Vitamin D has already been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease & protect against brittle bones & Multiple Sclerosis. The latest study looked at 500,000 Europeans in 10 Western countries. Those with high vit D in their blood had the lowest risk of cancer. Vit D deficiency has also caused a rise in cases of rickets in children – bone deformities. The British Medical Journal said that “a few hundred children are treated for rickets in UK each year.” Dr. Tim Cheetham of Newcastle Uni said “Health professionals have been slow to deal with the problem although it’s been known about for a while.” Half of UK adults are estimated to have vitamin D deficiency in winter & spring.

Trans fats – ban them.

Trans fats are the fats formed from partially hydrogenated oils are damaging to our health, they are present whenever you see those daunting words “hydrogenated fat” on the label. Damaging to our health? Yes they have been strongly linked to strokes, cardio health issues and high cholesterol, and some fear that they may promote infertility. From a food manufacturers point of view they are a cheap food, and although they have no nutritional benefits they do add bulk and texture and may make the product last a little longer.

However enough is enough according to some of our leading doctors who are demanding a ban on hydrogenated fats which are added to 1000s of processed foods including  biscuits, cakes, ready-meals & margarine. The UK Faculty of Public Health is urging government ministers to eradicate these man made transfats from the UK diet. The plea for such a radical move is also supported by Royal Society for Public Health. The Faculty of Public Health represents 3,300 NHS doctors and health specialists plus local government.

‘Chemically-altered oils are used to bulk up foods and extend shelf-life. They have no nutritional value,  raise cholesterol and the likelihood of  heart attacks and strokes. The Royal College of GPs said ‘The evidence is indisputable…’
Hydrogenated fats are made by treating vegetable oils with hydrogen which turns oil into a hard artery-blocking fat.

Vitamin D, the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous,  it contributes to joint and bone health. Researchers have found that Vitamin D may help reduce the risk of other diseases such as cancer, chronic pain, cardiovascular and may protect against autoimmune disease.

Recent research has shown good management of vitamin D deficiency may be a simple and cost-effective method to prevent the serious complications associated with diabetes. The Diabetes Educater suggests that diabetes is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, and a low intake of Vitamin D may increase the risk of cardiac events.

You would find this vitamin in very few foods and it is normally available as a dietary supplement. People who are exposed to normal quantities of sunlight do not need the  ‘Sunshine vitamin’ as Vitamin D is normally produced in the skin after exposure to sunlight.

If you find that you don’t receive enough sun for your daily dosage of Vitamin D then here are a few ways you may obtain this vitamin,

Raspberry Trifle with traditional style custard

This yummy raspberry trifle has no jelly (that’s why I like it) and can be changed here and there to accommodate most dietary restrictions.

For the custard

If you are egg intolerant use vegan and dairy free  instant custard making up 1 pint slightly thicker than instructed on the pack using the milk or soya drink of your choice.

Otherwise, if you are ok with eggs proceed as below:

4 egg yolks

25g golden caster sugar or 15g agave syrup or sweet freedom
1 dessert spoon cornflour
425ml double cream (or non-dairy cream)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling
6 trifle sponges home made sponge cake or gluten free sponge cake
2 tablespoons  raspberry spread
150ml Raspberry juice
275g frozen raspberries
1 dessert spoon golden caster sugar or sweet freedom
2 medium-sized bananas

For the topping
275ml double cream, soya dessert or sojade cuisine
50g toasted flaked almonds

A 1.75-litre glass bowl
How to make the trifle
The filling:
Slice the sponges in half lengthways, spread one half with jam and place the original half back on top. Cut each one into three mini sandwiches and place sideways up in the bowl (they should all fit into a single layer). If you are using left over home made cakes, than all the better as you know exactly what has gone into them.  Just cut into slices, spread with the jam and layer a layer in the bottom of the bowl.
Slowly pour the Raspberry juice all over them. Then leave on one side so the cake can absorb the liquid.
To make the custard. – if using eggs
Whisk the cornflour, egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl. Then heat the cream in a small saucepan and, when it comes up to simmering point, pour it on to the egg mixture, whisking as you pour. Now quickly pour the whole lot back into the saucepan, add the vanilla and whisk over a medium heat until it just begins to bubble and thicken (don’t worry, it won’t curdle – if it does look at all grainy, it will become smooth again when whisked off the heat). Pour it back into the bowl and leave to cool. » The raspberries should be placed in a saucepan straight from the freezer, together with the sugar. Then cook them over a gentle heat, stirring them around only until they have collapsed and defrosted and the juices start to run. This will take about 5 minutes, then let them cool.
To assemble the trifle:

Slice the bananas and put as a layer over the cake. Strain off any excess juice from the raspberries and pour over the sponges and banana. Now pour the custard all over the top.
Whip the cream till thick, spoon it over the dessert.  If you are using non-diary cream or soya dessert this is just as good though a little more runny.  Spoon your layer on carefully then cover the top with a layer of almonds. Chill until you are ready to eat.

Flax is good for you, very good for you

OK, so how many Omega 3 foods can you name?

Let’s have a go…oily fish, flax, (linseed), hemp seed oil… not easy is it?

The Western diet is associated with not only a high rate of breast cancer, but also heart disease, other cancers, arthritis and asthma as well. It has been found that our poor balance between Omega 6 and Omega 3 (roughly 10:1) heightens the risk of these diseases. But basically, the more equal the balance between these fatty acids, the less the risk (aim for 3:1).

It’s not as simple as making sure it says “omega-something” in the ingredients list. Check to see how much Omega 3 there is in comparison to Omega 6. Both are good for you, but you really need a roughly equal amount of both.

A typical Western diet is high in Omega 6 rich foods – these are meals made by industrial frying such as takeaways, ready meals and snack foods like crisps, chips, biscuits, ice-creams and, additionally, margarine. (Is this the right time to point out that alcohol also depletes Omega 3’s from the brain?)

But we don’t do nearly as well in consuming Omega 3 foods. How many could you name?

We tend to know that the best source of Omega 3 is oily fish like mackerel or sardines, but that’s about it. And what if you don’t like fish? The next best source (apart from supplements) is probably flax. One scientific group recently fed a fire-service crew on either fish oil or flax oil, and found out that 2.4g of flax oil daily was comparable to 1.2g of fish oil in terms of providing an optimal amount of Omega 3 to the body.

There had been worries that only oily fish could provide enough Omega 3 but research like the above is showing other Omega 3 foods like flax, organic milk, green leafy vegetables, walnuts and tofu can play a part too.

Flax (also known as linseed) is available as oil, seeds, ground powder or supplements, but it’s rich, nutty flavour means that it is used as an ingredient in many foods. Flax, which is high in fibre and folates, has had notable results in slowing cancer growth and reducing cholesterol, blood pressure and arthritis, and it is also very useful to dieters and for women going through the menopause. It brings out a noticeable sheen in your hair and health in your skin once you start using it.

Flax seed can be incorporated into most baking, cereals, soups and hot dishes, but if you’re looking for something to experiment with, try this almond and flax bread – it’s gluten free too.

Flax and Almond Bread
175g ground almonds
100g arrowroot powder
4 tablespoons flaxseed powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1. In a medium bowl, combine the ground almonds, arrowroot, flax powder, salt and bicarbonate of soda.
2. In a larger bowl, beat eggs for 3-5 minutes until frothy.
3. Stir agave and vinegar into eggs.
4. Mix dry ingredients into wet.
5. Pour mixture into a greased medium sized loaf tin.
6. Bake at 180 C or Gas mark 4 for 30-35 minutes. Test to see if it is ready by inserting a knife to see if it comes out clean.
7. Glaze the bread with some more agave nectar while it is still warm.

Alternatively, there’s a new gluten free bread made from flax which you might like to try…

When fast food = good food. (Win a prize draw for What on Earth pizzas)

With all the current talk about healthy eating, will there ever be a time to enjoy fast food again?

You can reassure yourself that you are still looking after the planet as you tuck into a fine organic pizza from What on Earth which, incidentally, Men’s Health Magazine describes as the ‘best pizza available’.

When it comes to making healthy pizzas it’s all about the thinness of the crust and what you put on it (mozarella, as used by What on Earth, is only about as fattening as feta cheese). So it’s no wonder that What on Earth’s attention to naturally good ingredients make their pizzas simple but exquisite. And, more importantly, my friends think they are excellent: “just quality food” to quote one of them.

These pizzas are very popular with five different gourmet flavours such as fresh basila and tomato or courgette and goat’s cheese. To win some, all you need to do is email me to enter the draw and tell me which pizza you think sounds the nicest and I’ll send to five lucky winners the five-fold pizza range plus the extra pizza of your choice. (Don’t forget to include your address.) And everyone who enters will receive details of a money off offer on the pizzas too, that way no one can lose. (Competition ends 28.1.10)

I feel like I’m in the pizza delivery business – someone get me a scooter!

Sprouted bean bruschetta with tomato and basil

Makes 10 slices of utterly perfect lunch.

Gluten free ciabatta work brilliantly too


1 tablespoon sprouted mung beans
1 tablespoon sprouted radish
10 slices of organic baguette or gluten free ciabatta
5 tablespoons olive oil
30 cherry tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, peeled and rubbed in salt
Basil (preferably fresh)
Freshly milled salt and pepper

How to make the sprouted bean brushchetta with tomato and basil

1. Bring a pan of water to the boil and put the cherry tomatoes in for 30 seconds. Quickly remove the tomatoes and cover them in cold running water until they are completely cold, the skin should have cracked and loosened.
2. Grill 10 organic baguette slices on both sides. When they are crisp, score the slices 3 times with a sharp knife on one side.
3. Rub the garlic around the cuts in the bread and drizzle about half a tablespoon of olive oil over each slice.
4. Crush three tomatoes and place them onto a baguette slice, top with a pinch of sprouted mung bean and radish.
5. Repeat for each slice. Season with a scattering of basil, salt and pepper. And finally, sprinkle a few more drops of olive oil over the top.

The forbidden fruit, the pomegranate, could defend against breast cancer

The latest word on the street (well… from the lab really) is that breast cancer may well be prevented by eating pomegranates.

This luscious fruit of forbidden desire contains ellagitannins which have the same powerful effect as a drug used to treat breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

Pomegranates are already popular for their ability to decrease the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. They are brimming with vitamins A, C, E and rich in iron, folic acid and fibre. It also has excellent antioxidant properties (around three times more antioxidants gram per gram than does red wine or green tea) and it tastes great.

Professor Gary Stoner advised that people “might consider consuming more pomegranates to protect against cancer development in the breast and perhaps in other tissues and organs.”

If you know you are at risk of heart disease or cancer it may well be worth making pomegranate your daily breakfast drink, and the concentrated juice drizzles deliciously over muesli or humous.

Watch this space for the results of trials into pomegranate’s effect on the flu virus later this year.